Dealing with climate change: tips for children – from children

Climate change did not seem urgent to Gabriel Nagel as a child. In a seventh grade he saw the chart showing the increase in global carbon emissions, but it felt abstract.

Then, in 2017, wildfire burned just blocks from his home in Boulder, Colorado.

“That was a moment when it kind of clicked for me that climate change was not a dream of the future,” says Nagel. “It’s something we’re dealing with right now and no matter who you are, you’re going to be affected.”

Children around the world are increasingly facing the impacts of climate change, from losing their homes to disasters to having breaks canceled due to extreme heat waves. Climate scares are mounting as a younger generation faces inheriting a much hotter world.

“Many young people experience grief and frustration and fear and elements of betrayal by adults and other generations,” says Dr. Kelsey Hudson, a clinical psychologist specializing in climate change.

In dealing with these feelings, many young people find ways to find meaning and purpose. Here is some of their advice.

1. Talk to a friend about what’s going on

Nagel and his family were evacuated during the wildfire in Boulder, Colorado, but luckily his home was unharmed. Afterward, he noted that wildfires appeared to be more frequent in the West, especially given the prolonged drought.

“I know other people not only from this fire, but from other fires across Colorado that have lost their homes,” he says.

Nagel began learning more about climate change and began taking action in his daily life, such as: For example, cycling more and eating less meat. But it was joining the sustainability club at his Denver high school that made the biggest difference. There he met other students who were doing something for their community, such as planting trees and encouraging his school to start composting

He also joined another student group, DPS Students for Climate Action. Over the course of nearly two years, the group urged Denver Public Schools to adopt their first climate policy, adopting targets to reduce emissions and use clean energy across the district.

“Being surrounded by people who are equally passionate and optimistic about the future can be really uplifting and kind of motivating,” he says.

Feeling overwhelmed by the future of the planet, he meets up with a friend, Mariah Rosensweig, whom he met through the sustainability club. They go for walks and hikes together, letting their thoughts run free.

“Sometimes I feel like what I’m doing will never be enough,” says Nagel. “And part of it is true. As if one person will not be able to change the destiny of this planet, climate change. But at the same time I think I also have hope that by working together we can actually solve this crisis.”

2. Get out into nature

Even as a child, Rosensweig’s deep love for nature grew through being outdoors all the time.

“I was always one of the few girls who were dirtier than all the boys,” says Rosensweig. “My grandpa gave me the nickname ‘Tree Panther’ because I was always in a tree and he didn’t know where I was.”

In high school, she became a beekeeper. For her, working on climate change is about reminding people of their connection to nature. But seeing the damage done to nature can be daunting.

Mariah Rosensweig knows that seeing the effects of climate change can be daunting.  To combat these feelings, Rosenweig goes outside and connects with her senses and nature with the world.

/ Violet Baker

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Violet Baker

Mariah Rosensweig knows that seeing the effects of climate change can be daunting. To combat these feelings, Rosenweig goes outside and connects with her senses and nature with the world.

“Now the discussion isn’t: What can we do to prevent climate change?” She says. “It’s: How are we going to live with this? Being so young it’s frustrating to hear about this shift because it’s been – we’ve known about it for so long.”

If that’s how you feel, Rosensweig says, it’s easy: go out.

“I sit on the floor and really connect with my senses, especially the breath,” she says. “It will make you more aware of the world around you. And the more you are aware of it, the more you will care. The more you care, the more likely you are to do something about it.”

3. Join people who are doing something in your community

When 15-year-old Tanish Doshi first moved to Tuscon, Arizona, the extreme heat came as a shock as soaring summer temperatures broke records year after year.

“It feels like your skin is on fire,” he says. “Lots of people have access to safe shelters, air conditioning, water and things like that. If you look at our homeless populations and different people, they often don’t have that access here in southern Arizona. So the heat is really, really bad.”

If climate change seems scary, Doshi advises finding someone who cares and asking how they can help in their community.

When flooding hit Tucson’s Habitat for Humanity office during heavy monsoon rains, Doshi called his friends together to do something. They designed a flood control system around the building, laying drainage pipes, retention basins, and diverting water to absorbing areas with plants. Around 20 people helped with the construction, including his nine-year-old brother.

“For me, advocacy and action have eased some of my climate anxiety because it shows me that success is possible, right?” he says. “If a group of teens can have that success here in Tucson, and if teens across the country can have similar success, it can really lead to reform at the national level.”

Helping in your community doesn’t have to be a big project, say psychologists like Hudson. It can be as simple as planting a pollinator-friendly flower. The most important thing is to make sense of the plot and build social connections in the process.

“We can think about: What does it look like for young people to find meaning and purpose in this crisis?” Hudson says. “Connect with like-minded people and build an agency by connecting with climate change commitment or action.”

4. Don’t be too intimidated to speak up

When Sabal Dangi was 11 years old, he took a trip to Nepal, where his family is originally from. He saw how vulnerable people are to climate impacts, such as hotter temperatures making water supplies less reliable.

“We would see how climate change really affects them at these high altitudes,” he says. “They use all of their water from glacial melt and the Himalayas. And so now they’re really trying to adapt and economize.”

Dangi targeted something that appeals to many young people: the global inequality of climate change. Extreme storms, floods and droughts can be more devastating in low-income countries where people have few safety nets.

“My climate anxiety peaked last year,” he says. “It was just the feeling of not being able to do something.”

Dangi, now 16, wasn’t sure he knew enough about climate change to get involved. But after participating in some climate protests, he started a Fridays for Future chapter where he lives in Fresno, California. The youth-led movement has chapters around the world leading climate strikes that see students dropping out of school or protesting after school.

At first it was just Dangi and a few friends, but the group grew bigger the longer he kept at it. Discussing and engaging people about climate issues has helped him feel more positive.

“You don’t have to have a fancy degree or anything to really speak out about the planet,” says Dangi. “The world is everyone’s home. It is everyone’s future.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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